If you visited Trafalgar Square in the 1990s, what you probably walked away with is that the name, which used to be Charing Cross, commemorates the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, that it was redesigned in 1845 by John Nash, and that it is owned by the Queen under the Right of the Crown policy, which is quite interesting in and of itself… wait, no, none of this stuck with me or anyone else. Let’s start over.
If you visited Trafalgar Square in the 1990s, what you probably walked away with is white dings of pigeon poop all over your carefully picked out comfortable and sensible, but stylish and British-y outfit.
Yes, I’m talking about…. Pigeons. I can’t think or speak the words Trafalgar Square and not think about pigeons. It’s not just the quantity, for those of you who have not witnessed Trafalgar Square Pigeons, it is the culture which makes me giggle and wonder. Every morning the street musicians, human statues, and pigeon feed carts would set up for the day. Yes, I said pigeon feed carts. They sold pigeon seed on paper plates or little baggies at 25 pence a serving. The tourists eagerly got into line to purchase the food. That is to say, the tourists eagerly got into line and paid to be pooped upon.
The musicians and performers would desperately vie for the money, perhaps knowing that if a tourist was willing to feed money to a pigeon, they might just be willing to feed it to their talent. People would laugh and shriek and feed pigeons and snap photos. The pigeons would coo and eat and mock and poop. It was a vicious cycle.
To me, Trafalgar Square represents the minds of our twice-exceptional children. A twice-exceptional child is a child identified as gifted and learning disabled (ASD, SPD, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, etc). The issue with identifying these children has been that the cognitive abilities often mask the learning disability and the learning disabilities often mask the gifted qualities.
Let the pigeons represent their thoughts. These kids have so many thoughts, more than one usually sees in a small square, and they fly in and coo and gather, they mill and bump and squawk and fight. They reproduce seamlessly and when they do, they arrive as full-grown thoughts (I mean, has anyone seen a baby pigeon??) The pigeons get in the way of the actual attraction, what the child wants to think or do or say, and those little thoughts come back for one reason only: to eat and eat and eat.
The tourists gather around these kids and snap pictures and smile and laugh and shriek, because let’s face it, pigeons in that quantity are fun, freaky, and different. They buy food and feed it to the hungry critters and then get overwhelmed by the mob which isn’t satisfied with one or two paper plates’ worth of food. It is about this time they decide to hoof it to the Underground and check out the Palace, where pigeons eat one grain at a time and know better than to sit on your head and poop on your jacket.
As tough as it is to get a good picture, I imagine it’s even more difficult for our kids who are experiencing the onslaught. Even in England where the queue is second to godliness, pigeons don’t line up in tidy lines awaiting instruction. They are relentless and the kids can’t just shoo them away all the time; furthermore, when they try to shoo them away they are probably missing something you are pointing out to them at that very moment. Small successes are real and they manage to scare off a few. But they come back with friends and oftentimes right after you’ve repeated a directive for the second time.
What does this all mean? I think it’s important to offer tangible visuals to educators, parents, and children towards the purpose of helping them realize that thoughts, like pigeons, can be fed properly and less chaotically. We could tell them that people do want them to share, but sometimes they have to pull back and release a few pigeons at a time. Finally, we could help them understand that when it’s overwhelming, they won’t succeed in shooing them all away (at bedtime, for instance, when pigeons have a knack for being bothersome), so maybe it’s best to go across the street to the little café and watch from there, read a book, write some poetry, or hide if you have to.
Parents, when we find out we have 2e kids (and it seems to me all kids identified as gifted have a touch of pigeon), we become the tourists and we are desperate to snap the perfect photo to share with our loved ones, so they can see how whimsical, wonderful, and amazing it is to have so many pigeons all in one place. We want the world to see what we see in our kids and sometimes we end up screaming and running around like crazy people with poop in our hair.
Take a picture, run around and scream, and have a nice cup of tea, because the truth is when you look back at the best journey of your life, you don’t care about the picture you took, you just like to laugh about the moments which led up to it.
Happy Friday, everyone!
Follow up: I have read that after twenty years of feeding feral pigeons, the 1990s saw the largest growth of feral pigeons Trafalgar Square had ever recorded. They were quite literally in the way of commerce, traffic, and meaningful family photos. The government did away with the pigeon feed carts and has returned the population to a number that “Great Britain deems acceptable.” Though I’m sad to report that they have not published the GBAPN (Great Britain Acceptable Pigeon Number), which would be quite useful for those of us who would like to compare said number to the USAPN for purposes of solving boredom and being silly.